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Lego-brick Skoda boosts baseline Fabia with Monte Carlo tagline


As an ardent fan of the Fabia model, Iain Robertson feels forced to accept that its most desirable model is now the £20k+ Monte Carlo variant and deals are sure to be available, if the consumer digs in his heels but also accepts that Fabia no longer equates to budget motoring, not according to the grander VW corporate plan anyway.

Back in 1989, when I bought my first Skoda Fabia, which also happened to be the very first example registered in the UK, as a media test car, I paid Skoda UK the princely sum of £6,800 for the three months old hatchback. Its list price was over £11,000, so I knew that I had obtained a respectable deal. Within a year, my dear friends at Janspeed (a Salisbury-based tuning shop) reworked the 1.4-litre 100bhp engine to produce around 145bhp, along with a fruitier exhaust, 16.0-inch diameter alloys and beefed up suspension. Around 18 months later, when trading it in for the first ever Octavia registered in the UK, I obtained an outstanding £8,000 for it, even though I had piled on 65,000 miles.


Unwittingly, I had created the first unofficial vRS sporty variant…an official example of which I would acquire some five years later. I always loved that first model. Designed by the same stylist as the Bentley Continental Coupe (also owned by VW remember), it was a mythbuster for Skoda, not least because of its fully soft-touch dashboard moulding and unerring VW-grade quality, allied to Skoda dependability. Its value for money was exceptional and I realised then, as now, it was at a level unlikely to be beaten.

While Skoda produced its 130bhp Pumpe-Duse 1.9-litre TDi Mark Two version, badging it vRS, I felt compelled to buy one. Priced at a little over £14,900, it was still good value. My penultimate Skoda was the rare Fabia S2000 model, which featured a 229bhp, 1.4-litre petrol-turbo and supercharger (twincharger) engine mated to a 7-speed DSG twin-clutch gearbox. Performance testing it at Rockingham Raceway, near Corby, that car stopped the clocks with a 0-60mph time of 5.7s and a top speed of 158mph. Priced at £21,000, it was shockingly quick but was starting to become seriously overpriced. It was also the final Fabia to wear vRS badges, a fear factor for VW’s main board, even though Skoda loved the market response.


In 2011, the softer option (than vRS) arrived with the Fabia and I had already moved on to a Citigo model. However, it was a ‘sop’, intended to pull the wool over former vRS owners’ eyes, with plenty of matt black and special seats but lacking in engine grunt. The arrival of the latest and possibly the greatest Fabia offering having made its debut towards the end of last year has given Skoda a bold opportunity to redress the balance a little. With prices now commencing at a far from cool £20,925, the significant move upmarket for the one-up-from-baby Skoda goes a little way towards amortising the pricing. Mind you, powered by the 107bhp version of the turbo-petrol triple, while zesty, it is not exactly a road-burner.

Spend a further £1,040 and the six-speed manual gearbox (a worthwhile addition) can be replaced by a seven-speed DSG, which is equally worthy but a prime example of playing the parts-bin game, something at which VW Group is highly adept. However, the real dark horse in the revised line-up demands a far from modest £23,765 but is equipped with the 150bhp mid-range punchy motor used by every single, fossil-fuel burning model in VW Group’s line-up. Its power delivery has a delightfully sporty edge. Okay. There is no popping and farting on the over-run and drive-by noise legislation means that listening for building engine revs demands that the Bolero stereo system be switched off…but at least it emits a moderately musical tone, as it winds its way up the seven-gear ratios of the DSG twin-clutch transmission.


Even though this is the heaviest example of the Fabia, which has never been a lightweight, it can top 135mph and log a 0-60mph dash in around 7.8s, quick but no cigar. It manages a decent top whack thanks to the clever use of aerodynamics around and below the car. Yet, it is the parts-bin machine that wins this game, providing the high-back sports seats that are several ways adjustable up front, 17.0-inch diameter alloy wheels, black headlining and carbon fibre (lookalike) door and dash trim. The keyless-go fob and oodles of electrickery for both active and passive safety addenda, plus climate control complete a comprehensive package that attempts to conceal unsuccessfully a good value consumer offering.

While dimensionally larger than its forebear, the Mark Four Fabia is a virtual carbon copy of the VW Polo, upon which it is based and loses nothing as a result. It is roomy, albeit not at the levels I need from a new car, as slotting a folding wheelchair into the back seat is not recommended and, although the boot is accommodating, there would be no remaining space for shopping. Yet, the new Fabia is a beguilingly pleasant development and, while offering no tangible price advantage over the Polo, its uncanny levels of refinement and known dependability, allied to solid residual values will turn it into a best seller for Skoda.

Conclusion:        There is no hiding the fact that I like Skoda and I love the Fabia…yet, the corporatising nature of its owner (VW) does have an impact that is not all positive. I love the way in which Skoda has ‘snuck in’ a punchier Monte Carlo, which is actual the only one that I might have contemplated as an ownership proposition. My advice would be to price up a Suzuki Swift Sport, in much the same class, if not possessing the build quality.